You don’t need to tell a Bengals fan the playoffs are special and rare. We know firsthand. From 1991 through 2004, Cincinnati didn’t make the playoffs. Three U.S. presidents served between Bengals postseason appearances. The internet was invented. Then Web 2.0. Cell phones became commonplace. When the Bengals made the playoffs in 1990, Saddam Hussein had just gone from being our friend in the battle against Iran to becoming Public Enemy Number 1. The next time Cincinnati made the postseason in 2005, Hussein was dead, and Osama bin Laden was the new bad guy.
In other words, a lot has happened between playoffs appearances.
I’ve always been envious of fans of really successful teams. Fans of the New England Patriots have forgotten what it’s like not to always be good. Same with Colts fans and Packers fans.
But it can be taken away just like that. When Peyton Manning had neck surgery before this season, the Colts went from being the class of the league to having the number-one draft pick. Suddenly, Indianapolis is back in the wasteland between Manning and Bert Jones. 49ers fans are only now recovering from the retirements of Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott.
But being a fan is about hope. It is believing that just maybe this year things will be different. Afterall, the Lions made the playoffs without Barry Sanders, and both the Buccaneers and Saints have won a Super Bowl. Annually, the NFL provides evidence that miracles do occur.
Sure, the Bengals’ last two playoffs appearances ended in losses — ignominous ends to promising seasons. Yeah, Cincinnati has never won a road playoffs game in its 44-season history. And it is true the Bengals have found ways to lose just about every important game they’ve played this season.
But it’s the playoffs. They don’t come around very often, especially in the Queen City. So I plan to enjoy it. This year, my team got an invitation to the NFL’s annual postseason party. We’ll probably have to leave early, but we’re there. I’ll savor it.
And who knows? Maybe we’ll win a game. Or four. Afterall, miracles do occur in the NFL.
Just ask last season’s improbable champions, the Green Bay Packers.